Beneath the Crown

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Chapter 37

Zasrus

Never before have I felt so hopeless. The pain and the fear that was tearing this woman I loved apart from the inside made me angry to the core. I kept it in, speaking calmly and gently to her, and not moving too suddenly. When her arms came around me and she held onto me as though I was the only man who could protect her, I knew at that moment that no matter what happened between us, she will always have a place in my heart.

I held onto her as her body trembled.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered but didn’t let me go.

“For what?”

“That you had to see that,” She said and pulled away from me, “That you saw my wall break.”

“Never be sorry, Ash. Holding it all in will only make the memories fester. Give them the light of day, so that they can leave.”

“I can’t,” she said and with a shake of her head, she turned away from me.

“Ash, please don’t turn away from me,” I said and she stopped.

“I want to know. I want you to trust me enough to tell me.”

“I don’t want you to see me as this fragile little thing,” She spun to me, “I am not weak. I am not nothing! I have worth!”

I knew her words were not to me, so I let her shout them out as loud as she needed to.

“I deserve to be happy! I deserve to be free! I am stronger than you think, and I will not let anyone break me. Not again!”

He made her feel like that. This man allowed a woman as wonderful as Ash believe she was nothing.

I clenched my jaw as I stared into Ash’s eyes, but the anger in me was building to a point I would not be able to control.

“I deserve to be loved. I deserve a man that will treat me with respect. And I deserve to be happy.”

She wiped the tears off her face and as her breathing grew slower and calmer, I took a slow step closer to her, “You are loved, Ash. More than you realize. Loved by Connie, who would do anything for you. Loved by my brother, who sees you as a sister. And loved by me, and I am willing to give you everything I have, and anything your heart wants.”

“You still want me? You want all of this?” She asked, gesturing to herself, “All this pain, this mess I am? I have nothing to give you. Do you get that? Nothing. I am this empty broken shell of a person. I wake up every morning feeling scared. I go to bed at night and if my dreams don’t torment me, then the thought that one day it will happen all over again does. That is how my brain works. It always expects the worst. And you deserve so much more than that. You deserve to be happy, and cherished for the good man that you are.”

“I deserve the choice,” I said and took another step closer to her, “I want it all, Ash. Everything that is you. The good and the bad. The sad and the scary. The beautiful and the happy. I want to be the one that you turn to in a time of need and the one you come to when you feel scared. I want to always make you feel safe, and loved and to help you see just how incredible you are. I want something real, Ash, and with real comes real emotions, real fears, and real dreams.”

She swallowed and shut her eyes, “I am so scared. So afraid that if I let you in, I will get hurt again. I want to. . . You have no idea how much I want to.”

“Then allow me to show you that love can be a beautiful thing.” She met my eyes as she took in a long breath.

Can’t you see, that the more of yourself you show me, the more I love you?

“Make me one promise, right here, right now,” She said and stood straight.

“Anything,”

“Promise me you will be patient with me. I have a lot of things that need unpacking and not all of it is going to be pretty. I will fight, and push you away, and do stupid shit, but just don’t give up on me.”

I took another step closer to her and reached out for her hands. I took them into mine, and met her eyes, “There is nothing that could ever make me give up on you. No matter what you do, or how hard you push, once you let me into your life, you will never be rid of me. Not truly. I will always love you and care about you even if we go our own ways. I don’t want to rule over you. I don’t want to control you. I want you to be free, and happy, and as long as I see you smile every day, then I know I have done well.”

She smiled at my words. Her eyes fading from the anger and fear to the soft and gentle look once again.

She looked up at me and I felt her hands pull out of mine.

She is not comforted by your words. Not enough to-

She stepped closer, stood up on her toes, and placed her lips on mine.

I shut my eyes, taking in a deep breath of her scent and kissed her in return.

I feel like I might fall from joy.

Her hands came up to my chest and as the kiss deepened, I wrapped my arms around her body and held on for my fragile heart's sake.

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